KIAF has once again taken center stage in the global art scene
Words PLUS MAGAZINE
At Perrotin New York, Jean-Michel Othoniel’s latest exhibition, The Reconciliation of Opposites, unfolds as a profound journey into the delicate dance between strength and fragility, the enduring symbolism of blossoms, and the transcendent medium of glass. Stretching across two floors, the exhibition beckons visitors into a world where art and nature converge, where luminous flower paintings adorned with white gold leaf on the third floor speak of grace, while the second floor reveals the radiant, towering glass brick series, Precious Stonewall and Wonder Block, imbued with an ethereal splendor.
Othoniel’s new paintings, born from the essence of his iconic Rose series, extend their roots to various plant species, including the vividly depicted Wisteria, all evocatively rendered in a vivid spectrum of colors. These works gracefully inhabit the gallery walls, while his Wonder Blocks stand as meditative columns, their pigments casting an incandescent and almost otherworldly glow. In this monumental yet delicate, baroque yet minimal, and poetic yet profoundly political realm, the artist’s contemplative creations have the extraordinary power to reconcile the most profound of opposites. In the following interview, Othoniel discusses his new body of works and imparts his vision for what he hopes viewers will discern from his oeuvre.
Plus Magazine: I’m really intrigued by the title of your exhibition, The Reconciliation of Opposites. Can you explain how this title came about and the idea behind your new paintings?
Jean-Michel Othoniel: The title of this exhibition, The Reconciliation of Opposites, essentially serves as a bridge between my sculptures and paintings. Despite the fundamental differences between these two practices, I saw an opportunity to bring them together, both conceptually and in the physical exhibition space. On the second floor, the sculptures form the foundation, acting like the columns of the show, constructed with bricks to create an architectural structure. Meanwhile, the paintings on the third-floor focus on enlightenment and reflections within the brickwork, providing a sense of continuity.
This exhibition also marks the culmination of a project I started two years ago. Over time, my work has evolved, becoming more abstract and moving away from the direct influence of the sculptures. My inspiration has always been drawn from flowers, ranging from roses to plum blossoms. It’s important to note that my intention has never been to represent the flowers but to draw inspiration from their structure, movement, and colors to create abstract forms. These paintings are all on gold leaves, allowing light to pass through. The connection with light is a crucial element in my work, emphasizing the idea of beauty, enchantment, hope, and joy.
PM: Can you elaborate on the relationship between your sculptures and paintings in your artistic practice?
JMO: The process of creating paintings is distinct from working on sculptures. When working on sculptures, I require the assistance of various craftsmen and collaborators. However, with paintings, I can be more free and unrestrained in my creative process. That’s why I found it important to showcase just paintings on the third floor, without the sculptures. It’s an opportunity to highlight the work I’ve been engaged in for the past decade.
PM: I couldn’t help but notice that most of the paintings in the show have a hint of yellow, resembling pollen.
JMO: You are right; the yellow indicates the pollen found in the flower. As for the white in the blue flowers, it conveys the idea of light within the shape.
The last piece in the collection (Poppy, 2023) takes us back to the theme of roses. Notably, there’s a significant difference between the very first and the latest one. The initial one exudes a delicate quality, while the last one resembles a flame, and it’s imbued with a sense of wildness. It evokes movement and energy, making it a compelling piece.
PM: Your paintings seem to convey a dynamic explosiveness while maintaining a subtle and intricate tonality.
JMO: As you just mentioned, there’s a sense of explosiveness in the paintings, but simultaneously, when you immerse yourself in the colors and focus on the work itself, it instills hope. My intention is to offer hope to the world through these pieces. They exude joy, yet beneath that lies a profound depth.
Furthermore, there’s something captivating about the body and its movements within the works, akin to a category field. What I adore about these paintings is that they reflect my own bodily movements, which is significant. This is because the process of creating sculptures also involves constant movement. So, in a way, there’s a connection between the two mediums. This connection is why I view it as a reconciliation.
PM: What do you hope viewers will take away from this exhibition?
JMO: What I want people to grasp is that, as an artist, you always have the freedom to explore new avenues and go where people might not expect you to. I aim to be a source of surprise, to catch people off guard, but at the same time, I want them to recognize the connection between my sculptures and paintings. Even though I have been making paintings for over ten years, it’s my first time showing these [white gold leaf] paintings in the United States, so it’s really a new beginning for me.
PM: What’s next for you?
JMO: The Brooklyn Botanic Garden exhibition will continue its journey to a museum in Brazil. The architecture there is extraordinary, almost like an eye suspended in the landscape, a truly remarkable design. It’s a unique challenge as the space has no walls and a curved ceiling, making it quite complex. However, I plan to create pieces that appear to float within this space, incorporating many sculptures. The installation will give the impression that the botanic pieces are floating around the building.
Overall, the next few years will be intense in terms of museum exhibitions. While I enjoy showing my work in galleries, museums offer a different kind of engagement with the public, which is something I greatly appreciate.
Jean-Michel Othoniel’s The Reconciliation of Opposites is on view at Perrotin New York, until December 22.
KIAF has once again taken center stage in the global art scene
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